Gore Vidal is Dead

It’s hard to add much to the many fine obituaries of Gore Vidal, although I will say I envied his skill in kneecapping hypocrites, his erudition, and his wonderfully theatrical speaking style. Below are links and videos.

Prolific, Elegant, Acerbic Writer New York Times

Gore Vidal quotes: 26 of the best Guardian

The War at Home Gore Vidal, Vanity Fair

Monotheism and Its Discontents Gore Vidal, Nation

This piece includes some commentary about Obama

Gore Vidal inverviewed by Melyvn Bragg New Statesman

This interview is a bit of a personal retrospective:

And this spat is a classic:

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  1. Patriot

    I saw another part of the Buckley/Vidal interview where Buckley does admit that some of the Chicago PD officers acted incorrectly. I cannot imagine a conservative pundit on, say, Fox, saying the same thing today in a similar situation.

    1. mookie

      yeesh, the troof never sleeps.

      I haven’t read any of Vidal’s fiction, but can highly recommend the essay collection United States. As an essayist he had the attitude of a gleeful iconoclast and a gift for clever, vicious turns of phrase. A representative quote from the Monotheism and its Discontents link above:

      The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture 1s monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three antihuman religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal – God is the omnipotent father – hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not Just for one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. Ultimately, totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god’s purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority and that of his delegates on earth. One God, one King, one Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family at home.

      1. 911truthVN

        It’s a beautiful afternoon in Hanoi, and sorry to quote “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

        1. 911truthVN

          This is from the man in Sept 2001
          Traditionally, in war, the President is totemic like the flag. When Kennedy got his highest rating after the debacle of the Bay of Pigs he observed, characteristically, ‘It would seem that the worse you fuck up in this job the more popular you get.’ Bush, father and son, may yet make it to Mount Rushmore though it might be cheaper to redo the handsome Barbara Bush’s look-alike, George Washington, by adding two strings of Teclas to his limestone neck, in memoriam, as it were.


      2. Heretic

        He was a man with a piercing intelligence and a great concern for his home the USA… He was a thorn in the side of the powerful, because he cared for 99%. Although he was an atheist, God will welcome him into heaven nonetheless .

      3. Up the Ante

        “the troof” and “fiction”

        “sky god”, in a 9-11 context that’d be conspiratorial Air Force meth-men ?

        Bush, “Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. ” Seems the “clock is running Late”, as the Grateful Dead would say.

        And “patriarchal”, another reference to the AF and its Academy ?

        /mookie passage choice rant

        1. monday1929

          In “Myron”, he substituted the names of the Supreme Court Justices for the words they banned: “He drove his Powell repeatedly into her Whizzer White……” (but much wittier than that). But after seeing the terms numerous times, the mental transformation of the uptight (remember that word?)Justices’ names into the very profanities they banned was complete, and laugh inducing.

        2. bulfinch

          The three mysteries he wrote under the nom de guerre Edgar Box are an interesting snapshot of the late 50’s and good fun & quick reads, besides.

      4. Susan the other

        I don’t think Gore Vidal was vicious person. I just think he had such a profound understanding of all of human hypocrisy that he really pissed off the pompous, like Buckley. Now that guy was vicious. He should have been kept in a cage.

        1. mookie

          I have no idea whether he was a vicious person, but I would guess not. I would say that he had, in the tradition of Wilde and Parker, a vicious wit. He was certainly not sentimental, and reveled in attacking malignant beliefs held dear by many.

      5. F. Beard

        A sodomite had problems with the Bible? Surprise, surprise!

        Actually, sodomy is just one of very many sins in the Bible and no mere* human is sin-free:

        If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

        Everyone therefor needs a Savior. Even if your only sin were picking your nose in public, well, that still needs to be cured, no? But we’re a bit worse than that, eh?

        * Jesus is not merely human; He is also God.

        1. mookie

          yikes. from the same monotheism essay (not one of his best, but it’s on hand and relevant):

          The ongoing psychopathic hatred of same-sexuality has made the United States the laughingstock of the civilized world. In most of the First World, monotheism is weak. Where it is weak or nonexistent, private sexual behavior has nothing at all to do with those not involved, much less with the law. At least when the Emperor Justinian, a sky-god man, decided to outlaw sodomy, he had to come up with a good practical reason, which he did. It is well known, Justinian declared, that buggery is a principal cause of earthquakes, and so must be prohibited. But our sky-godders, always eager to hate, still quote Leviticus, as if that loony text had anything useful to say about anything except, perhaps, the inadvisability of eating shellfish in the Jerusalem area.

          1. F. Beard

            It is well known, Justinian declared, that buggery is a principal cause of earthquakes, and so must be prohibited. Gore Vidal

            Well, there is California but I think the causality maybe reversed.

          2. Up the Ante

            [lols begin]

            “private sexual behavior has nothing at all to do with those not involved, much less with the law. ”

            That would be like the Bush-Rove Compromise, wherein the Texas Supreme Court ruled on private sex is private ?

            Others like to refer to such convergences as ‘perfect storms’, and intrinsically stamp their approval upon looting, “God’s work”, and political diversions.

      6. F. Beard

        One God, one King, one Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family at home. Gore Vidal

        Huh? Many Christians have a problem with the very idea of a Pope. I’d sooner give the Pope a noogie than kiss his ring. As for kings, “We have no king but Jesus” was a familiar Revolutionary cry among Christians.

        Gore was thus railing ignorantly in this case.

        1. Dave of Maryland

          Vidal’s opinion of religion was surprisingly crude for a man of his intellectual caliber, but F. Beard’s put-downs are cruder by far. One might excuse Vidal in that he made targets out of things. The excuse for lesser intellects must be sheer pique.

          1. F. Beard

            You’re the astrologist, right?

            Crude is not the issue here, accuracy is. Gore was inaccurate in his critique. If I’m inaccurate then point it out.

          2. F. Beard

            Here’s another misleading statement:

            He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not Just for one tribe but for all creation. Gore Vidal

            Remember, in the Garden of Eden, man had only ONE command to obey and a very light one at that.

          3. Lidia

            Beard, that command was: “you must remain ignorant”, i.e., “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.

          4. F. Beard

            “you must remain ignorant” Lidia

            I think A&E were doomed to fall sooner or later. Lucifer was created perfect YET he fell so that possibility would always exist for mankind too. And like Lucifer, mankind would have no excuse. So God let Satan lose on mankind to give them a taste of sin and its consequences? Without them being fully responsible for being sinners (“The Devil made me do it!”) ?

        2. Capo Regime

          Nope you are railing ignorantly. Church of Rome was the main HQ and the the center of western christianity until the protestant reformation and of course the creation of the church of England to ease a divorce. The protestant and evangelical sects phenomenon which most americans aver affiliation are fairly recent historical and by their very definition are free of rome and most of these christians could not find rome on a map if their life depended on it or tell us about the council of trent. Whatever problem they may have with the pope is likely primitive and crude much like your post.

          1. F. Beard

            The power of the Papacy grew over the centuries, peaked and declined with the Protestant Reformation. The Greek Orthodox have NEVER (to my knowledge) accepted the authority of the Pope. In the early Christian Church, individual Bishops (selected for their godliness by the elders of the local church) were the authorities.

          2. F. Beard

            Whatever problem they may have with the pope is likely primitive and crude … Capo Regime

            Possibly, because the Pope, thank God, has little to do with their lives. In theory, at least, their authority is the Bible. They seem to have done pretty well, relatively speaking.

  2. dearieme

    “Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament”: just because it concerns the Bronze Age it’s rather rash to assume it was written then. But I suppose it sounds more dismissive that calling it an Iron Age text.

    1. F. Beard

      The Torah was begun in the Bronze Age and was completed in the Iron Age is my understanding.

  3. skippy

    Vita non est vivere sed valere vita est.

    skippy… He understood all to well… ab abusu ad usum non valet consequentia… sigh…

  4. ambrit

    Who will be our “Elder Statesman” now?
    Vidal was what our present day degenerate 1%rs want to be; legitimate aristocrats, not poseurs. He’ll be missed.
    Plus, his description of Buckley, and, by implication, all who followed after him, as crypto-Nazis, is gaining the status of Prophecy. He’s probably glad he didn’t have to live long enough to see the fulfillment of his worst fears.

    1. Ray Duray

      Hi ambrit,

      Re: “Vidal was what our present day degenerate 1%rs want to be; legitimate aristocrats, not poseurs.”

      If I might be so bold… I believe you are confusing your own noble desires with those of the sociopaths running the insane asylum who give every indication of being perfectly delighted to legitimize every immoral step on the road to tyranny. I see scant evidence for your “legitimate aristocrat” theory. I believe we’re emulating the privateer model instead.

      We can agree though that Gore Vidal’s wonderful contributions to our social discourse will be missed. Here’s a nice collection of Vidal videos to consider:


      1. Up the Ante

        “the sociopaths running the insane asylum who give every indication of being perfectly delighted to legitimize every immoral step on the road to tyranny. ”

        It is Guerrilla Capitalism Looting, and Everything is for sale.

        1. Ray Duray

          A century ago the U.S. was a plutocracy. Today, we’ve dropped the “p”. We’re a loot-ocracy. And #1 in that category. :)


      2. ambrit

        Mr. Duray;
        I’ll plead nolo contendere to the charge.
        As for the privateer analogy, someone earlier in the life of the West remarked that, “Great fortunes begin with great crimes.” Afterward comes the rush for respectability. Nuveaux riches generally wish to emulate the more refined elements of the older gentry. Some sort of ego problem seems to be the general rule. Arrivistes comes to mind.
        The ‘old’ hippie question rises into focus here; “Just how far is there really to go?” All of this looks to be based on social heirarchies and competition for status; other centred activities. Many here can attest: The true arena for self enlightenment is within.
        To repeat: Gore Vidal will be missed. Like him or hate him, he made you think. I can think of no higher praise.

        1. Up the Ante

          His quotes speak of a search for insight.

          If you do not seek insight, it rarely presents itself unsought for.

    2. dirtbagger

      Vidal was a great writer with a wonderful writing style and an insightful mind. His works and personna did exude an air of arrogance and intolerance toward those with different opinions. Buckley just seemed to be the other side of the coin, intelligent and arrogant, with a somewhat opposite view on how society should be structured.

      1. Ray Duray

        Buckley’s entire existence can be explained as an attempt to preserve the rich inheritance he received as a gift from his oil speculator father.

        I like this observation made by John Kenneth Galbraith. I’m sure he had Buckley in mind:

        “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

        1. dirtbagger

          One does not have to like or agree with Buckley’s politics to appreciate that he was one of the few people on the far right that could expouse an intelligent and plausible framework for his positions. Contrast him with the current group of uber conservatives who only seem to be able to express their views with ad hominem attacks on their opposition.

          Regarding Vidal’s Burr – does anyone know if the book was how historically accurate?

  5. burnside

    The perfect skin of that NYT obit conceals the heart of a monster. I suppose one can indulge in such swipes with their object safely silenced.

  6. Warren Celli

    Gore Vidal’s death was a good career move. Every generation gets the deceptions it deserves. Wrestling’s conspiricy contingent will miss him.


    “LOS ANGELES (LALATE) – “The Undertaker” is not dead. The Undertaker Mark William Calaway is battling false death reports today August 1, 2012 again. Fans are irate today that fabricated death reports are striking their favorite wrestler. The reports mirror those from 2006 and those from two years ago. Today’s false death reports claim that the Undertaker died of a neck injury while practicing a wrestling move with John Cena. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

    More here…


    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. René

      Children alarm their parents because parents, naturally (?), expect their children to be an exact replica of themselves (?).

      In spite of knowing that we reproduce our kind by bringing the father’s genes into contact with the mother’s and therefore we get a result which is unique!

      Don’t understand this quote.

      1. Up the Ante

        “Don’t understand this quote. ”

        Uhh, the precocious monkey .. will begin to reflect what the parent projects upon it .. and “alarm” arises, what could be funnier ?

  7. oy

    “Burr” and “Lincoln” are among my favorite books and I heard Vidal drop a couple of thought provoking quotes on talk shows, but the guy hardly qualifies as a philosopher-king.

    1. ambrit

      Dear oy;
      Believe me, NO ONE qualifies as a Philosopher King. That was the beauty of Aristotle; he could provoke serious thought by proposing ‘perfect’ examples of things, and people, as thought experiments. Then along came the Enlightenment.

  8. briansays

    something timely in words to the effect
    It’s beginning to smell like Weimar around here

  9. LeeAnne

    Gore v Buckley -Wow! they’re outbitching each other. And Buckley’s addiction to Ritalin is uncomfortably apparent.

    NYTimes: “Mr. Vidal sometimes claimed to be a populist — in theory, anyway — but he was not convincing as one. Both by temperament and by birth he was an aristocrat.”

    In that respect, the author of the article seems to know nothing about Franklin D. Roosevelt or the founding fathers with whom Gore had a lot in common.

    On Obama, what he has to say is a disappointment. It proves that talking about ethnicity in today’s politically correct America can make a fool of anyone.

    Given Vidal’s prescience, this is discouraging:

    Otherwise, America is going to collapse into authoritarianism?

    No, no, no. It’ll ease into it, for one thing, and it’ll love it.

      1. Capo Regime

        He went to Mencken’s defense after the various PC writers started attacking Mencken as a evil man etc…..Vidal pointed out a.) Mencken was a genius and b.) despite being a man of his time was in his actions more ethical and just than any of his detractors and c.) the crits will soon be relgated to obscurity. d.) Vidal reminded many of us of the wonders of Montaigne. May he rest in peace. may his critics go read Tony Morrison and Ezra Klein in hell and view Oprah and Dr. Phil.

        1. Klassy!

          Funny you should say that. I was actually thinking of his championing of William Dean Howells specifically who Mencken disparaged.

        2. Klassy!

          This passage was highlighted in a review of his Essay collection. I liked it too.
          For some years I have been haunted by a story of Howells and that most civilized of all our presidents, James A. Garfield. In the early 1870s Howells and his father paid a visit to Garfield. As they sat on Garfield’s veranda, young Howells began to talk about poetry and about the poets that he had met in Boston and New York. Suddenly, Garfield told him to stop. Then Garfield went to the edge of the veranda and shouted to his Ohio neighbors, ‘Come over here! He’s telling about Holmes, and Longfellow, and Lowell, and Whittier!’ So the neighbors gathered around in the dusk; then Garfield said to Howells, ‘Now go on.’

          Today we take it for granted that no living president will ever have heard the name of any living poet. This is not, necessarily, an unbearable loss. But it is unbearable to have lost those Ohio neighbors who actually read books of poetry and wanted to know about the poets.

  10. dSquib

    The best tribute to Vidal so far is that Chuck Lane evidently hated him. Dubs him a “nihilist” owing to the fact that he evidently did not believe in God, the “Judeo-Christian tradition” or America because, hey, what else is there? Must be a NIHILIST!!!

    1. Lidia

      I get that from my RWNJ sister. SHE wants the world to end in apocalypse, with most of us writhing in a lake of fire for eternity for no known -yet predetermined!!- reason, but I’M the nihilist negative nelly for not believing that!

  11. Garrett Pace

    I haven’t much exposure to him – I found Julian unreadable and didn’t try anything else. Maybe that was an unfortunate basis for a first impression.

  12. Garrett Pace

    “Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so.”

    When did he say this, I wonder? Douglas Adams said something very similar:

    ” To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.”
    The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, 1980.

  13. ralphbon

    With the passing of Alexander Cockburn and Gore Vidal within a matter of days, the aggregate literary artistry of leftist writing decreased a notch, and its pH value increased measurably through the loss of two sulfurically acid wits.

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